It is almost unbelievable, the number of responses I have received to my last few columns about abuse. So many people, men and women, have contacted me via E-mails, Facebook, or Twitter to tell me about their experiences with abuse. Some were abused incestuously, by family members others by trusted teachers, counselors or neighbors. Close to 100 individuals wrote to me or stopped me in the street. Some of them I know, many I do not. About two thirds were women; family members abused many more of them then abused the men though some of the women were abused by a teacher and some by a school bus driver perhaps the same one I wrote about in my book Abuse in the Jewish Community.
The men detailed abuse by what were apparently the same handful of rabbis, Bar mitzvah teachers, and counselors. One man detailed a situation that occurred in summer camp. He woke up one morning with his counselor wearing only underwear nuzzling against him in his bunk bed. Another man described a similar situation that occurred in the same summer camp. It would not be that wild a leap to believe that what happened to these two men was perpetrated by the same camp counselor. One man mentioned the name of the counselor to me. Another man told me the name of the Bar Mitzvah teacher that abused him – it was the same counselor. A third man who was abused by his grade seven Rabbi mentioned the very same man as his abuser. Frightening but not especially surprising – I had the same man as a Rabbi and many of my classmates referred to him as one of the best teachers they ever had. Some of these men were abused over 50 years ago and my Rebbe, their abuser has since died.
Others mentioned situations of abuse providing what may be clues as to who their abuser was but most were unwilling to name names. Their reasons were essentially simple – they did not want to cause an uproar for their own families at this point and some had concerns for the family of the abuser. When I asked them if telling me the name of their abuser could prevent that person from continuing his abuse of others all but one still refused to reveal the name. Virtually all indicated that it would be best if the administrators and Boards that had the responsibility of hiring and monitoring their employees took their responsibility at face value and carefully monitored them. The survivors of abuse also strongly voiced the opinion that the administrators should also believe what students tell them. This is a powerful point. In most cases, especially those not involving domestic violence, when children report abuse they are telling the truth.
I continue to welcome your responses. I hope that those of you who have written to me have experienced a modicum of catharsis. I hope that those who have not written have also had some. If you wish to contact me, you do not have to post your story on this site. You can reach me directly.
I hope this open discussion continues to bring some comfort.